Noyes News and Events

January 12, 2018

Not Too Late to Get Flu Vaccine

Influenza, the flu, is now widespread across the United States including New York State.  Nonetheless, it is still not too late to get your flu shot.  While flu activity has increased sharply over the last few weeks, the CDC says the season will most likely last until April and flu vaccination is still beneficial.  Flu vaccines can keep you from getting sick and reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization especially among children and older adults.  Flu vaccination is also critical for people with chronic health conditions.  While the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year, health experts still recommend a flu shot.

Flu vaccines cover a number of flu strains but vary in effectiveness year to year because:  1) The match between the flu vaccine and the flu viruses that are spreading that season may not be optimal; and 2) A person may respond differently to the vaccine due to age or overall health.  For example, older people with weaker immune systems may respond less well to vaccination.  In general, current flu vaccines tend to work better against influenza B and influenza A (H1N1) viruses and offer lower protection against influenza A (H3N2) viruses.  So far this year, about 85% of influenza-positive tests reported to the CDC were influenza A viruses and about 15% were influenza B.  92% of the A types were H3N2 viruses and 8% were H1N1.   Because the flu vaccine is not as effective for H3N2, some people ask, why bother?

The CDC states, flu vaccination is still beneficial for the following reasons:

  1. The vaccine may still prevent you from getting the flu.   The flu vaccine covers several strains.  Exposure and susceptibility vary from person to person.  Your best insurance, therefore, is to be vaccinated.  

  2. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults. A 2016 study showed that people 50 years and older who got a flu vaccine reduced their risk for hospitalization from the flu by 57%.  

  3. Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes.  According to the CDC, flu vaccination is associated with reduced hospitalization among people with diabetes (79%) and chronic lung disease (52%).

  4. Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.  Getting vaccinated also protects the baby several months after birth.

  5. Data suggests that flu vaccination may reduce flu severity; so while someone who is vaccinated may still get infected, his or her illness may be milder.

  6. Being vaccinated also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illnesses, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.  

  7. Sometimes, the flu season comes in waves with different flu strains.  It is not unusual for the flu season to start and peak with one strain and then reemerge with another strain.  For instance, in 2014, the flu season peaked with H1N1 in January and then revved up again in the spring but this time with influenza B.  

If you get sick:

1. Take Antivirals Drugs, if prescribed by a doctor.  

Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatments when they are started within 2 days of getting sick. However, starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health condition or is very sick from the flu.  There are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC this season to treat influenza:  oseltamivir (available as a generic version or under the trade name Tamiflu®),  zanamivir (trade name Relenza®), and peramivir (trade name Rapivab®).

2. Take everyday precautions to protect others while sick

  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

3. Stay home until you are better

  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

4.   Remember hospital visitor restrictions.

  • UR Medicine Noyes Health and other local hospitals have issued flu restrictions. The restrictions are intended to help limit the spread of flu and protect patients and staff.  Individual patients will be limited to no more than two visitors at a time and no one younger than 14 years of age will be allowed to visit except for healthy siblings of healthy newborns.  Restrictions also ask people with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, and body aches not to visit hospitalized patients until they are symptom-free for 24 hours.

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville, NY.  For article suggestions or questions, contact Lorraine at (585)335-4327 or